The Culture

Last week was my two-year anniversary of living in the beautiful state of Alabama!  I’ve loved every minute of living here, and there are no regrets with making such a huge move to make our home in the south.  While I could do without temperatures of 143° and 923° humidity, I love the people I’ve met, the friends I’ve made and the home we’ve created.

One of the biggest differences I’ve noticed between here and California (where I lived for five years before moving here) are the amount of people who say they’re Christians and talk about God openly.  Church is almost a culture out here, a legacy that’s been passed down from generation to generation.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that someone’s membership to a local church started with their MawMaw or GreatGranny taking their kids so many years ago!

In California, the conversation was not as free-flowing about Christianity.  Don’t get me wrong…it wasn’t nonexistent.  You just didn’t hear, “I’ll pray for you,” or “God bless” as you left your local grocery store.  No one was asking random strangers if the church’s youth group could help clean up your yard!

Now, hear me out on this one.  I’m not looking to step on toes.  I’m not looking to rile up the great people of the south (or of California).  But this idea of Christianity being a “culture” around here got me thinking.

Have you fully surrendered to God?  Are you a blood-bought believer, saved by the grace of God, living for Him in every aspect of your life?  Or is it just a culture….a legacy that’s been given to you because it’s what the family has always believed?

These are not questions I ask lightly.  And these are not questions I have not already asked myself.  My parents were Christians.  My father was raised in a Christian home.  It’s what I’ve always known.  But I would be remiss in not recognizing whether or not my salvation is because I made a choice to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ or because it’s what my mom and dad “did” so I did.  My actions, my attitude, and my heart should be clear indicators as to whether or not I am a new creation.

The Bible speaks clearly to being not of this world and being about the Father’s world.

“Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” –1 John 2:15

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on the earth.” –Colossians 3:2

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” –Romans 12:2 

While it’s important to attend a church, have your children going, have your children’s children going, there must be more to the story than just a legacy.  Does our faith show?  Does our faith produce works that show?  Is our heart truly surrendered to the Creator of the Universe?

Our actions and our life should reflect 100% submission to God.  There should be no room for doubt when someone sees us that we are committed to Christ.  I’m not saying perfection.  I’m saying active pursuit of righteousness.

There’s one way to heaven.  I don’t get to go because my mom and pop were Christians or because my Grandma prayed for me.  I get to be a citizen of heaven because I made the personal decision to accept Christ as my Savior.

Maybe you’re reading this and recognize that you haven’t done that yet.  I encourage, dear friend, call on the Lord.  Tell Him you’re a sinner and that you’re nothing without Him.  Repent of your sins and ask Christ to come live in your heart as Lord of your life.  There is no greater moment than knowing you have stopped becoming a citizen of this earth and are bound for your true home in heaven!

~Erin

11 Pills

There’s this moment where you feel as if you’re the only one that has ever gone through this.  And that moment lasts for days, weeks, maybe months.  No one ever talks about it.  Maybe because you feel it’s not your story to tell.  Maybe because you feel embarrassed.  Maybe because you’re afraid you’ll be judged. But those thoughts couldn’t be further from the truth.  So here I am, ready to break this stigma wide open, because it needs to be done.  Particularly in the Christian community.  And I share it with the full support of Peyton.

On March 6th of this year, my sweet Peyton tried to kill herself.  Even writing it now makes me cry.  I never thought I’d be the parent who wrote those words.  But my daughter was so overwhelmed that she felt like the best option was to go to sleep and never wake up.  So she filled her small hand with pills, downed them with a glass of water and laid down. 

She has absolutely zero recollection of waking up about an hour later.  She has no memory of trying to go to the bathroom and talking to us…or attempting to.  She doesn’t recall the next hour of her dad and I trying to talk to her, putting her in the shower to see if she would be coherent, and us searching her room for the alcohol or drugs we were sure we would find.  

We thought she was drunk or high.  She’d sleep it off.  While I was going through her phone to see how she’d gotten the stuff, I made the single biggest mistake I think I’ll ever make in my life.  I opened her phone’s internet browser and I saw her search history, “How much amitriptyline do I take to overdose.”  And I thought, “WHAT A RANDOM THING TO LOOK UP.  NOT MY KID.” If it had been a neon sign, it would’ve blinded me and I still don’t think I would’ve acknowledged it.  Instead, I just kept looking for where she got the alcohol or drugs.

She laid in the living room on the couch asleep while I laid down on the love seat beside her, checking her throughout the night.

When she woke up the next morning, she was completely disoriented and didn’t understand why she was in the living room.  I looked at her and asked if she felt ok.  She said yes and just sat there for a moment before she looked up at me with tears in her eyes.

“Can I tell you something without you getting mad?” 

I said, “Tell me.”

“I tried to kill myself last night.” And she started to cry.

What we had witnessed was my daughter’s body reacting to an overdose.  Miraculously, despite my willful ignorance to her Google search, she survived.

When you’re going through a tremendously painful time like an attempted suicide, you’re not really sure who to call or talk to.  Which one of your friends will understand?  Who is going to judge you or your kid?  Who’s going to pray, and not just pray in passing but pray the host of heaven down on your child to heal her physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually?  Who’s going to treat your child differently?  Who’s going to treat YOU differently?

There’s such a stigma attached to mental health and it can feel embarrassing.  But as Chris and I walked through the next 6 days of a trip to the ER followed by some inpatient time for Peyton on an adolescent psychiatric unit, we found out we weren’t the only ones.  We knew a surprising number of people who did or were going through the exact thing we were. 

It’s been two months since her attempt, and it’s been a process to work through healing for her as well as for us.  We find that the more candid we are with Peyton about what happened and what her feelings are currently, the more she feels ok to open up when she struggles.  We can’t put her in a protective bubble (which, believe me, I’d love to do) but we can ensure that we’re walking WITH her during this.  She now knows that she’s not alone in this fight because her entire family is here to fight with her.  In turn, this has allowed her to be very open about her mental health and attempted suicide with others.  She wants to know that her miraculous gift of failure in that attempt will help someone reach out before their attempt is a permanent consequence.

My walk with God is even more important than just walking with Peyton.  As a Christian mother, I know that God is bigger than trauma, than hurts, than depression.  He is bigger than the lies the devil tells her. 

These two verses are ones that I’ve held strong to since March.

“When you pass through the waters I will be with you;

And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.

When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,

Nor will the flame burn you.” –Isaiah 43:2

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” –John 16:33

I know that God is with us.  He sees her and He loves her.  And though there is a fight going on in her head and in her heart, He has not left her to fight this alone.  In fact, He wishes to fight on her behalf.  He wants to fight on my behalf.  I praise God that even though the world is often too invested in ‘self,’ He is invested in US.

If you are struggling with this in your home, please, I beg you, know that you are not alone.  Not only do you have a Heavenly Father who is 100% for you, you have friends here at the Iron Porch who understand and have walked in this valley, as well.  There is no judgment here.  There is no stigma here.  There is the love of a Savior and friends who stand with you.

~Erin

**If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide or self-harm, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.** 

Chicken Dinner

We lost a chicken yesterday.  And by lost I mean something came in and decided raw chicken was better than fried chicken.  There were feathers everywhere.  Our teeny tiny Bantam rooster was no match for whatever got in there, and little Truffles became a meal for some creature in the woods.  

Peyton and Chris felt they had made a great enclosure.  They knew it wasn’t foolproof.  It didn’t have a real roof, but with a coop inside the large closed-in space to lock them up at night, they felt it was rather safe.  However, as the chickens got older and as Peyton started working, it was less frequent that she remembered to close the coop at night.  There hadn’t been a problem since we bought the chicks 10 months ago, and we got lazy in doing the little bit extra to keep them protected.

Are we the same way about sin?  God gives us clear scripture telling us of the need to protect ourselves from the wiles of satan.

“Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” –Ephesians 6:11

“Submit yourselves therefore to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” –James 4:7

“Be sober-minded; be watchful.  Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” –I Peter 5:8

“And no wonder, for even satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” –2 Corinthians 11:14

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.  I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” –John 10:11

It is well known that satan will do whatever it takes to keep us from full fellowship with God.  If he can tempt us with thoughts of coveting, greed, or selfishness, he will.  If he can get us thinking about how nice it would be to skip your bible study or miss church, he’ll do it!  There’s nothing he won’t do to try and steal our devotion to God.

We should be prepared for this!  We shouldn’t only be praying “Father, keep us protected from satan.”  We should be studying scripture, digging into the word, putting on the FULL armor of God to protect ourselves.  The more we are submitting and surrendering to the will of God, the harder it is for satan to get that access to us. 

When we’re fully prepped and ready, we aren’t sitting around waiting for the attacks of the devil.  We’re ready to keep those sinful deeds at bay before they even get close enough to become an action!

Ladies, let’s stand strong in our faithfulness to God and prepare ourselves properly for a possible attack before that nasty thief even gets close! 

~Erin

The Food Program

I participated yesterday in my first summer food program through the Elmore County Child Nutrition Program.  In our county they are providing food for the summer for any child 18 and under.  It’s enough food to allow for 7 days of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.  It’s an amazing program they’ve been offering since Covid-19 hit, and it’s been a huge blessing to the residents with children here in our region.

As this is my first summer here, I had only heard stories of what it would be like.  I was shocked to see a well-oiled machine…three stations, each set up with their own volunteers, welcoming us as we pulled up, letting us know when they’d put their portion in and guiding us to the next station.  As we rolled up to each station, I couldn’t help but be shocked at what I saw them putting in my trunk. 

Fresh local produce, meat, cereal, milk, cheese, crackers, pasta—these were items with which you could build meals.  It seems as if it’s an opportunity to not only feed the children of Elmore County, but also bring families together during mealtimes.  This was an outpouring of love from a community onto its members.  Many communities are doing things like this, but just as many are not. 

The willingness and love given to these local families reminds me of a verse.  John 15:12 says, “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.”

This act of love helps those around us.  No, they’re not necessarily giving out of their own pockets.  However, they are giving so much time and energy and support into making sure that each child in this area has an opportunity to be fed and cared for through this outreach.  There are, I’m sure, countless hours being given to ensure a successful program. 

I encourage each of you to look around at what’s going on in your community.  If there’s a way to support the people around and show them some love, the way Jesus showed His love to us, get busy doing it!  Be a part of the programs in your community, as well!  The volunteers that dedicate their time love to see that people are taking part in the activities.  It shows just as much love to them as love to you!

Thank you, Elmore County Child Nutrition Program, for your dedication to our children.  It’s not unnoticed!  Does your community have something like this?  Share in the comments how your community is being loved on.

~Erin

Not All Who Wander are Lost: Packing List for Heaven

I’m a self-declared lover of travel.  It could be one town over, the next State, or another country.  I love exploring new location, eating the local food, and meeting people who live in those destinations.  I have wanderlust and am most content planning the next trip. 

I completely embrace the quote “Not all who wander are lost.” 

One of the things I enjoy about traveling is the preparation.  I love the planning and researching to make the most of a vacation.  If it hasn’t been selected for me, I choose the location, the amount of time to travel, and the mode of transportation.  I make lists of foodie-related places to check out.  I figure out the historic or notable attractions to explore.  I game plan if I have any friends or family in the vacation location.  I count down to the departure date.  And then I pack.

Preparing for your vacation is similar to preparing for a journey to heaven.  Like a vacation destination selection, you must make the decision of if heaven is a location you’d like to go.  Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6 (NASB) 

You must accept the gift of Jesus’ death for your sins, which essentially becomes the selection of your transportation.  The difference between an earthy vacation and a journey to heaven is that Jesus paid the price of the ticket for you to go to heaven.  Only Christ’s blood is a sufficient payment for this particular trip.  

Like earthly vacation research, our preparation for heaven does not end with choosing the destination and transportation.   No, we still have work to do.  Once we become Christians, our entire life should be focused on the journey and preparations that God has for our lives.  This could include Bible study, mission work, sharing the Gospel, tithing, holy living and even attending church faithfully.  

Are you a traveler?  

Are you going to heaven?

Have you started packing?

~Emily

For we know that if our earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made by hands, eternal in the heavens.” 2 Corinthians 5:1 (NASB)

A December Spelling Bee: “Jesus, J-E-S-U-S, Jesus”

My fourth grader made it into the finals at his elementary school spelling bee, which meant we were studying a lengthy list of spelling words for the first few weeks of December.  Words were given at random times, such as waiting in check-out lines, while driving to the dentist, and through the phone.  Erin was also recruited to help testing spelling words.

I’ll be honest, the words started blurring together over the days of helping prepare for the spelling competition.  We started getting creative and silly with the process.  If Kambell said he was hungry, I’d start to give him food related words that weren’t even on the list.  If I started a to-do list, he would start spelling items that needed to be on the list.  We spelled animals, neighbor names, places we’d like to travel…anything was fair game for spelling.

And then one morning my son suggested we spell Christmas words.  I started by giving him the word “Present” followed by the word “Candy-cane.”  He said the word, spelled the word, then repeated the word in both instances.  As I was thinking about the next word he looked at me and said, “I was thinking more of Christmas words like Jesus, Manger or Bethlehem.” 

It’s at this point that the judgey-side-eyes should be headed my way.  

In the midst of strange COVID related 2020 shenanigans, I was not focused on the truest meaning of Christmas.  It took a 9-year-old to remind me.  For real, y’all! My son straight schooled me on which words should be the true Christmas words!!!

It took that conversation to re-focus me on the intent of this season.  The remembrance of the birth of our Savior. The truest and most precious gift ever given to any of us by our Lord.  Give yourself the gift of remembering why we celebrate Christmas and share that gift with those around you who may not know Christ. 

I pray that in the next couple days leading to Christmas 2020, you are able to have time to reflect on that gift and what it means in your life. I’m praying we see a mighty movement of new believers as a result of the sharing of the Gospel.  And I’m praying health and wellness for all of the Iron Porch family.

Merry Christmas!

~Emily

John 1:14 “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”


Serving at Christmas: And Beyond the Holidays

During the Christmas season, we have a unique opportunity to build our own leadership skills while teaching others how to serve. Repeatedly throughout scripture, we see that Jesus used everyday circumstances to train his disciples (and us) how to serve and minister to others.  An example that immediately comes to mind is when Jesus feeds five thousand.  In John 6:1-13, notice all the times that Jesus had his disciples minister to the people. 

While conducting the miracle of feeding so many, Jesus taught others about ministry and serving.  He was modeling intentional relationship building with others.  He provided first hand experiences of how to minister…and what the rewards would be when service happens.  While Jesus showed us how to do this daily, we can use the holidays as a mechanism to “jump start” serving and ministry.

Often the holiday season becomes a time where serving is routine.  Without too much thought, we toss some change into a red kettle.  Perhaps we bring extra canned goods for the entrance to a craft fair.  We purchase small items for a shoebox ministry.  We take an angel tree tag and purchase a toy for a child.  

I’m not discounting those tasks as bad.  All of those are good things to do.  I am pointing out that they can become routine and we don’t pause to think or pray about the why…or the who…is behind these acts of service. I’m suggesting that before we toss change into the pot or purchase a toy for a stranger that we stop to pray.  Pray over why we are giving and pray over who will be receiving. 

I would also propose that we need to encourage others in serving during the Christmas season.  Jesus brought the disciples alongside him while He fed the 5000.  Why? Because it was a first-hand opportunity to learn how to serve effectively. 

– If you already serve in a ministry, ask someone to serve alongside of you.  This is a chance to ask those who are not typically involved to step out of their own comfort zones.  It may create relationships that develop into other serving opportunities. 

– If there isn’t an opportunity within ministry organizations, ask someone to come to a volunteer project outside of the church.  It could be as simple as writing letters to nursing home residents, or supervising a children’s event or doing yard work for those who need help.

– If you have children you are leading, brainstorm ideas with them of how to begin serving at Christmas and how that can continue into the new year.  Maybe your kids want to volunteer at the food bank for Christmas week and that evolves into a weekly or monthly volunteer project.

Once you’ve invited someone to serve with you, a scenario is created where they are empowered to continue serving on their own.  It requires that you are an intentional leader in assisting others in serving.  In the next few weeks, look for Christmas opportunities to encourage others to serve…and encourage service past the holidays.

~Emily

P.S. I’m so encouraged by the women of my church who chose to forgo a typical Christmas party this year to focus on raising awareness for The Elmore County Pregnancy Resource Center, Isaiah 58 Ministry, The Backpack Ministry, as well as writing Christmas cards for Nursing Home residents and deployed military members…they truly modeled Jesus’ behavior in serving others this season!

My Dog Is So Brave

Every morning between 4-6 am, my 10-month-old lab stands by the front door and hits the bells with his nose indicating he would like to go potty.  Every morning, I open the door to the complete darkness of early morning and he just stands there for a few seconds sniffing the air.  Once his sniffer assesses the air, he trots out to do his business.

He is so brave.

Nearly every morning I think about just how brave he is.  I certainly don’t want to step out into the darkness every morning to relieve myself.  We live in the country…do you have any idea what types of critters are hanging out around our house?!?!?!  There could be racoons, opossums, coyotes, spiders…lions…tigers…bears!!!!  Not to mention the bad guy or the zombie that could leap out of the woods!!!

He sniffs the air and then proceeds about his task.  He’s brave.

I want that type of bravery in regards to sharing the Gospel.  I want to “sniff the air” and proceed with telling people about Jesus.  However, more often than not, I allow my fear of the “critters in the yard” to dissuade me from stepping out into the darkness.  

In John 20:21 (NASB), we read, So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be to you; just as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”  In this passage, there is clear direction that He is specifically sending us to share the good news.  

Furthermore, He tells us in Matthew 4:19 that once we choose to follow Him, we will be made as fishers of men.  There is a task associated with being a Christ-follower…and that task includes sharing the gospel.  

From a knowledge perspective, I understand this.  I know the scripture, I know my responsibility in relation to this task, and I know how I should proceed.  The issue comes into play when I allow the fear of rejection or judgement of man to overshadow the need to proclaim Jesus as my Savior.  In order to combat this fear, I am committing to memorizing and implementing Romans 1:16 (ESV) “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

This next week I plan to be brave, like my puppy.  I will sniff the air and then proceed out the door to proclaim the Gospel and what Jesus has done in my life.  Will you join me?

~Emily

Expiration Dates

There I was standing in the shower with lathered suds sliding down my arm when I noticed my shampoo bottle from a different angle.  It was as though I was seeing the bottle for the first time in my life.  I noticed a detail that had escaped my observation for all of my life.

Did you know that shampoo has an expiration date?  Seriously, there’s an expiration date on my bottle of shampoo!

That got me thinking what else could be expiring? I know milk and eggs can expire but does toothpaste? Oh, my goodness, does chocolate?!?!?!

What doesn’t expire? Well, when properly stored, there seems to be a few items that will theoretically last forever. Honey. Salt. Sugar. Rice. Pure Maple Syrup. Dried Beans.

You know what else doesn’t have an expiration date?  God’s love.

Before, now, and always…God has loved each and every one of us.  He truly loves us and wants each one of us in heaven with Him.  The only caveat is that we have to accept His gift.

It’s crazy to think about how God loves us so completely that He not only sent his Son to show us how to love and live, but that He also allowed that Son to be used as a sacrifice to cover our sins.  Most of us learned John 3:16 as one of our first memorization verses.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” ~John 3:16 (NASB)

Unlike my shampoo, God has offered a gift of eternal salvation that only expires when you don’t accept the gift.  God literally allowed His Son to be our ticket to eternity…all without an expiration date!

If you haven’t already accepted the gift of salvation, consider today as the day you change your life and put your life in Jesus Christ as your personal savior!  Contact the Iron Porch if you have questions about how to commit your life to Christ!

~Emily

Shampoo

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are You a Consumer Or A Follower?

I mark up my bible.  I’m one of those women that highlights, makes notes, and writes the day that I heard something profound for my life from the pastor.  I was taught to do it and saw it modeled from the time I was a little girl.  It doesn’t make my bible more special than someone else’s, but it does allow me to see what I’ve learned in my journey with God and shows my children that journey, as well.

Recently, I was reading through John and I came across one of those notes.  In this particular note, I didn’t mark who preached about it, but the thought intrigued me and I wrote it down.  In John 6:1-13, he tells the story of being with the disciples and feeding thousands with just five loaves of bread and two fish.  In the middle portion of the scripture (verses 14-65), John goes on to talk of Jesus walking on the water and then Jesus speaking to the crowds about how He is the Bread of Life.  At that point, the bible says that many disciples left.  But a few stayed…THE disciples.  In verses 68-69, Simon Peter (having been asked if they want to leave as well) says to Jesus, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have words of eternal life.  We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.

The first series of verses show the consumers of the gospel, but the last part of the verses show the followers of the gospel!  What a profound way to look at this.

In the beginning, we’re all consumers.  We don’t know Jesus, but maybe we check out a bible-believing church because we’re curious.  Possibly a neighbor or a friend talks to us about having salvation.  Any way we find out about Jesus, we are consumers of His word.   But what we DO with that is up to us.  We can continue to be consumers, going to a church and hearing the Word or listening to Christian music or reading a devotion, but never really digging in and fully committing to Christ.  Or we can be followers of the gospel, dedicated to following His commands and reaching out to others in service and discipleship.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be just a consumer.  I want to be a true follower!  Join me today in making the commitment to letting go of a consumer lifestyle when it comes to Jesus and instead becoming a follower of Jesus.

~Erin